Django Unchained: Saying Nothing, in the coolest way possible

django unchained leonardo di caprio

Django Unchained, like most of Tarantino’s movies, has little to say, but it says it in the best way possible. At this stage, audiences should know what they’re going to get – over-the-top performances from amazing actors in a genre-homage, wrapped in a crackling script and finished off with a cooler-than-Tarantino-himself-will-ever-be soundtrack. Django is more of the same, and it’s welcome.

Jamie Foxx is Django, a slave rescued by dentist-turned bounty-hunter Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who together team up on a mission to rescue the former slave’s wife from the ownership of the snaggle-toothed Monsieur Candy (Leonardo di Caprio). Little needs to be said about Waltz and di Caprio that all the award nominations cannot say. Blood was literally spilt. But Foxx is the bad-ass centre of the movie and he is as watchable and enjoyable the cool cowboy as any Eastwood or Wayne character. His friendship with Waltz is the heart of the movie and brings some unexpectedly touching moments – something not common, but welcome in a Tarantino script. Despite the B-movie/hyperactive nature of the characters, it’s easy to care whether they live or die.

django unchained jamie foxx christoph waltz

This film may be largely centred around slavery, but it has little to say about the subject beyond “wasn’t it nasty” in an overly graphic way. It’s doubtful that audiences will leave cinemas thinking anything beyond “lordy lordy, slavery was a bad thing, wan’t it?” (they will speak in southern accents, I know I did). This is a Tarantino movie – and if he or anyone else thinks that it will bring thoughtful and contemplative ideas and themes to the table, they are sorely mistaken. If you want soulful retrospection on a dark chapter of America’s history, look elsewhere. If you want ridiculous action and fountains of blood, you’re in the right place. Django Unchained, like most of his work, is a love-letter to a beloved genre, stylishly told in a way only this man can, with dialogue and acting that’s in part hilarious, part terrifying and always surprising.

Criticisms can be justly levelled for its bulky pacing, unnecessary scenes and a strangely awkward climax (not to mention his awful cameo and accent), but who cares? Almost every minute of this movie is either hilarious, tense, cool or warm. Not many people can brush over narrative problems in this way, but a Tarantino script is the ultimate Tippex pen – apply some amazing words and unexpected moments and a pointless scene becomes a memorable one. Django Unchained is no masterpiece, but it’s another solid entry from one of the great auteurs of our time.

FOUR STARS

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4 responses to “Django Unchained: Saying Nothing, in the coolest way possible

  1. Hi Dave,

    Great review, I really like your blog aswell. You hit it on the head here:

    ‘ If you want soulful retrospection on a dark chapter of America’s history, look elsewhere. If you want ridiculous action and fountains of blood, you’re in the right place. ‘

    That should make it clear that backlash isn’t going to do the film any good. I just posted my thoughts on Django’s character here actually: http://dharmajunk.com/2013/01/27/django-unchained-tarrantinos-ode-to-the-timeless-black-hero/ Yeah, slipped it in, but if you’re going to follow people in real life, that makes it alright!

    Just kidding, great review and I’m going to follow your blog too, looks interesting. Keep it up.

    Tom

  2. Call it what it is – an exploitation movie. More specifically, it was a Blaxploitation complement to the Nazisploitation of Inglourious Basterds; each was a modern take on an old format filtered through the pop-culture encyclopaedia that is Quentin’s mind.

    That it says nothing is no surprise – Tarantino is all about style and less about social commentary beyond the surface. What he is an expert at is hooking an audience through dialogue, character, suspense, humour, and violence. Django is very entertaining and for the most part, well constructed. I doubt it will endure the way Tarantino’s earlier work has, but his recent form is a refreshing sorbet after the stillbirth of Death Proof.

    • Some wonderful wordage there Joe! “A refreshing sorbet after the stillbirth of Death Proof.” needs to go on the poster.

      And I agree, Death Proof was a shocking display of self-indulgence. I haven’t been able to bring myself to revisit it, for fear of the boredom.

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